Chilean novelist Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna was published in its original Spanish in 1985 with the first translation into English appearing three years later. A quote from the tales of the Arabian Nights prefacing the story indicates that the title character is intended to be interpreted as a latter-day analogue to Scheherazade, the legendary captive who extended her life for another day by weaving a captivating tale for her abductor each night.
Her third novel, Eva Luna is one of Allende’s demonstrations of mastery of the 20th century literary genre most often associated with Latin American writers: Magical Realism. This is a genre in which the inexplicable and seemingly supernatural exists alongside the mundane and ordinary. Eva’s turn to fiction is not engendered by a literal oppressive threat to her mortality, but rather by social and political circumstances always perched like a vulture ready to feast upon the entrails of her dignity. Her turn to storytelling is a means of staking a claim to that dignity which not even the darkest of ordinary life can take. Her story thus becomes a thematic obsession with the magical properties of the imagination to protect one against all those elements of life conspiring against them.
Eva’s obsession with fiction is placed in juxtaposition with the obsessions of Rolf Carle, an Austrian émigré whose passion for documentary was instilled by a traumatic experience in his past involving burying dead bodies left behind by Nazis fleeing their prison camp in the final days of World War II. Their relationship is an examination of how truth is always the result of a collision between fact and fiction.
In 1989, Allende published a collection titled The Stories of Eva Luna which is comprised of short stories purportedly written the main character of the earlier novel. The follow-up cements the novel's primary thematic assertion that fiction has the power to transcend and transform reality by engendering the experience that one is reading not stories written by the actual author--Allende--but stories told by a fictional character created by Allende.